BLACKSBURG, Va. – Very few 21-year-old college juniors could boast of a successful 12-year career. Kaylea Arnett could, but she’s not the kind to boast.
Arnett, a Chickasaw and two-time All-American diver at Virginia Tech, is the kind to think of others first.
Asked about her recent accomplishments, which include twice being named Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Diver of the Year, Arnett said “I always strive to make my family, my coach and my tribe proud.”
She has consistently accomplished that goal since she first began training at the U.S. Diving Regional Training Center at Oklahoma City Community College in 2001. It would be difficult to tell her story without numbers, and for Arnett, the numbers add up to an amazing career in the sport she has practiced for more than half her young life.
Five gold medals earned during her three years as a diver at Virginia Tech only add to the impressive list of more than 50 first-place finishes in a career which started when she was only 9 years old.
She advanced quickly and by age 10, she was the youngest diver to qualify for the U.S. team that traveled to the Junior Pan-American Games in Belem, Brazil. In her first international competition, she earned bronze medals in the 1-meter and in the platform competition.
Since then, she has earned nine Junior National Championships. She and her partner, Michelle Cabassol, also earned gold medals in the Synchronized Women Platform event at the USA Diving National Championships in 2013.
Arnett also took part in the 2012 Olympic Diving Trials. She won two gold medals and a bronze in the 2007 Junior Pan-American Championships as well as two bronze medals at the 2005 Pan-American Championships. Those are simply the highlights, because she has earned accolades far too numerous to mention here.
She finished her junior year at Virginia Tech as a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Diver of the Year.
Arnett’s coach, Ron Piemonte, has high praise for her.
“In my opinion, Kaylea’s amazing performances at the ACC Championships, coupled with a third-place finish and two other Honorable Mention All-American honors at NCAAs, makes her undoubtedly the most worthy candidate for this honor,” Piemonte said. “I am very proud of Kaylea’s accomplishments this year and I am thrilled she achieved this title.”
This year, Arnett also won her third ACC Most Valuable Diver Award, becoming only the third female in history to win the award three times.
“Being the ACC Most Valuable Diver is a great feeling, but the experience is worth more than the trophies,” she said.
Earlier this year, Arnett captured the bronze medal in the 1-meter diving event at the NCAA Women’s Championships. That highest-ever finish in the event in school history helped earn her All-American honors for the second time in her college career.
“I am extremely proud of Kaylea’s performance,” Piemonte said at the time. “It was a pressure cooker of a final and she remained calm and competed very well throughout. We are thrilled for her to get the highest NCAA finish in program history!”
Arnett said she enjoyed diving as part of a team.
“Diving is a unique sport in that it is an individual sport but we are also a team,” she said. “We are all watching and cheering for each other but still doing our best to focus on our own performances as well. It’s nice to know you are not the only one who is nervous. We are all in the same boat together and we all support each other through the good dives and the bad dives.”